Miriam Toews • A Complicated Kindness

This was the full extent of my knowledge about A Complicated Kindness prior to reading it: 1) it’s about Mennonites, 2) the author is Manitoban, and 3) it won awards. These three grains of knowledge combined in my head to form an idea of what this book must be: a serious novel about religion (Mennonite), a literary book in the stylistic sense (award-winning), about life in a small town (Manitoban). That I wanted to read such a book tells you something about my current mood.

So what do I find in the book itself? Breezy writing from a teenage woman’s perspective. Short sentences. Fragments. Drugs and rock and driving around aimlessly and smoking cigarettes and dreaming about New York. Serious about religion, yes, but in a less ponderous and more cutting way than, say, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Full of intensity and humour and desperation. It’s such a sad book.

But I was right about life in a small town.

Miriam Toews, A Complicated Kindness. 2004 novel about a disillusioned Mennonite teenager growing up in 1980s Manitoba. Recommended.

Read More